Having ridden a 250 Bultaco in the 1966 Scottish, I moved on to ride Cottons and rode a 250 Villiers powered bike in the 1967 & 1968 events.
In the late sixties Cotton changed from the 250cc Villiers 37A motor to the Italian made 170cc Minarelli engine. I was given a large gearbox sprocket to carry in my pocket.
The idea was to fit it when we were due to do long stretches of road work.
The problem was, I was always so late on time I didn’t have the time to swap it!
On the final days’ lunch check, the thought of doing 30 miles an hour back to Edinburgh was very daunting indeed. It wasn’t helped by seeing the works Greeves fitted with minute rear sprockets.
Their cruising speed was around 70mph. Bill Brooker was the Greeves competition manager and he really had his finger on the pulse.
On more than one occasion he went out of his way to help me. My idea of a true sportsman and excellent competition manager.
It was short on ‘flywheel effect’ inertia and dreadfully low geared. Thanks to my pals at Head Wrightsons, a brass band was machined to fit onto the flywheel.
This made a big improvement to the engine characteristics, wheel grip and so on.
Entered by Norman Crooks Motorcycles, I rode with this modification in the 1969 Scottish and won the best up to 200cc class.
To solve the low top speed problem, I had sent Cotton a drawing of my flywheel modification but had heard nothing back. I wasn’t surprised when one week after the SSDT there was a half page advert in the Motor Cycle News, telling riders how good the modification was and how much they would sell you one for. I was gobsmacked!
However, I didn’t receive any thanks for the 200cc cup win or flywheel modification!
After winning the Alan Jefferies Trial, I decided to treat the Minarelli to a set of piston rings. I rang the Cotton factory up and in due course they posted them to me.
Unfortunately you’ve guessed it – I broke one when fitting them.
I rang Cottons for another set. Two weeks later they still hadn’t arrived.
When I phoned them, the top man answered the phone. ‘Mr. D’ said that he wasn’t going to send me anymore rings until I explained exactly what I had done with the others.
It was then I decided it was time to move on.
When Pat Onions was in charge of the competition shop there was never a problem.
Things were changing and it was time to abandon ship. But where to? – Rob
To Be continued …
Trials Guru: The factory Cotton Minarelli that Rob Edwards rode was to become the production Cotton ‘Cavalier’which was produced at around five machines per week. Supplied to customers in ‘kit’ form to avoid purchase tax. The 1969 Scottish– Rob Edwards came home in a creditable tenth position and another Special First Class award on 59 marks on his 170cc Cotton. The eventual winner was Yorkshireman, Bill Wilkinson who was to be the last British rider to win on a British built machine, a 250cc Greeves (WWC169F).
Rob remembers! : Isn’t it always the way? You start writing about one thing and another one pops into your head! Anyway, here is something I remembered about my Cotton days.
I traveled a lot with Brian Hutchinson. The problem was that Brian worked on the family farm. I would be at the farm at 4.30pm but it would be 6.30 pm before we started our journey.
One time in particular we set off for South Wales with light snow falling.When we reached the M1 motorway, the traffic was almost at a standstill. This didn’t bother ‘Hutch’ – he went straight across into the fast lane that nobody was using because the snow was too deep.
No problem! he had the Austin A55 pick-up to 80mph in no time and we had the fast lane to ourselves all the way to Sheffield!
We finally arrived at Merthyr Tydfil at 1.30am. No bed and breakfast or anywhere was open. It was freezing cold – you know its cold when your breath freezes on the windscreen. Close to death, we drove to the railway station and as luck would have it there was a gas heater on the wall.
You had to reset it every minute but this was the Ritz compared with the pickup. We took turns pressing the start button.
Unfortunately one time it didn’t ignite. I was woken up by the smell of gas and a hissing sound. The next second, there was a tremendous bang and the heater left the wall it was on and splattered against the opposite one.
We were last seen running flat out along the platform with the station master in hot pursuit shouting: “I’ve rung the police boyo you’ll not get away”. It was back to the “pickup hotel” after that! – Great memories – Rob
Words: Rob Edwards/Trials Guru, John Moffat 2014.
To read all of Rob Edward’s story of his life in trials, click… here
Photos: Trials Guru copyright – John Hulme/Trial Magazine – Sammy Miller – Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven – Tommy Sandham
Here are a few photos of the most famous competition AJS single.
187BLF is the ex-factory AJS of Gordon L. Jackson who won the 1961 Scottish Six Days Trial aboard this very machine and only lost one mark in the process.
It is a fascinating story of how a bike was ridden, won the most famous of all trials on the lowest ever recorded score and then after being sold at a reduced cost to pay for another AJS rider’s expenses and winnings bonus, which was lost to the world for many years.
The Thames Ditton sporting dealers, Comerfords’ Sales Manager, Bert Thorn immediately ordered one-hundred replicas straight after Jackson’s SSDT win, but the factory never fulfilled the order.
Alexander John Cameron, known to the townsfolk of his native Fort William as ‘Allie Beag’ or just ‘The Beag’, this Gaelic nickname means ‘Wee Allie’.
At the Parade Garage in Fort William, where he served his apprenticeship as a mechanic, there were two ‘Allies’ so there had to be a distinction and it stuck with him for the rest of his life. Allie was originally inspired by watching the Scottish Six Days and ventured into trials at eighteen years of age, when he could afford a James Commando in 1958. This beginner bike soon made way for a brand new 20TA Greeves, purchased from Duncan’s of Brechin a year later.
Allie progressed to a 250 DOT in 1961, which, he rode for only one year.
Next season, Allie bought the ex- Jimmy Hutchins Tiger Cub and had it reduced in capacity by the factory at Meridan with the intention of winning the 150cc cup at the Scottish, which he did. Henry Vale, the competitions manager at Triumphs had a Terrier 150cc barrel fitted to reduce the capacity accordingly. That particular Cub had a twenty-one inch front wheel and a widened swinging arm to accommodate a full four-inch section trials tyre at the rear.
His Scottish 150cc capacity win on the Triumph soon attracted the attention of the Greeves factory at Thundersley, Essex and Allie received factory support in the shape of a 149cc bike (XWC 264) for the 1963 Scottish.
Cameron lifted the cup a second time for the loss of 120 marks with his closest rival being Gordon Farley, on a Triumph supported by Jock Hitchcock, who dropped 174 marks. Greeves were happy with the result and used it to best effect in their adverts in the motorcycle press for many months later.
The same year Allie was runner up in the Scottish Trials championship, two points behind Jackie Williamson. By 1967, ‘Beag’ had two special firsts, four first class and four capacity class wins to his credit in six rides in the Scottish Six Days Trial.
Allie was offered a job as mechanic in the competitions department at Thundersley, preparing the factory trials and scrambles machinery for the works riders. He also prepared many of the special ISDT machines including those supplied to Thames Ditton dealers Comerfords. Allie worked in company with John Pease on the ISDT bikes.
Pease who as well as working at the factory was selected on many occasions as a British Trophy team member. The duo fabricated the special engine cradles to carry centre stands, rock guards and the various brackets to carry headlamps, number plates and compressed air bottles for tyre inflation.
Allie became friends with Don ‘D.R.’ Smith who came up to the factory once a week for testing and development discussions. ‘Beag’ would go practising at Kelvedon Hatch near Brentwood with Smith who was one of Britain’s top trials riders, by then, European Champion.
‘Beag’ knew all the ‘works boys’ and was highly regarded as not only an excellent spanner-man but as a handy rider in the Wessex Centre ACU. He spannered for Bryan Goss and many of the other factory motocross riders.
In 1971, Allie decided to return home to Fort William and took up a position with the area’s largest employer, The British Aluminium Company (‘BA’ for short). He wasn’t home long when he received a call from Jim Sandiford offering him a job at Sandiford’s Montesa import business. Allie thought long and hard but decided to stay at the BA.
Having been diagnosed as having Hodgkin’s disease, the Beag had to restrict his trials riding but never lost his enthusiasm for motorcycling. He rode up until the late 1970’s and was a willing observer at both the annual Ian Pollock Memorial Trial and Pre-65 Scottish.
Sadly, Allie died in the November of 1998. His funeral at the Duncansburgh Church, Fort William was filled to overflowing, such was the popularity of the little man known affectionately as ‘The Beag’ to the towns-folk. Many modern day competitors and “old hands” converged on the Fort to pay their last respects.
Article: Copyright – John Moffat -2005
Jimmy Young, Armadale
Alistair MacMillan / West Highland News Agency, Fort William (with permission of current copyright holder: Anthony MacMillan, Fort William – All rights reserved)
The 1987 Honda (HRC) RTL250S (actual capacity 270cc) of Eddy Lejeune (Belgium) seen in the paddock at the 1987 Scottish Six Days Trial in Fort William. The machine was maintained by mechanic and enduro competitor, Derrick Edmondston. The machine differed in many respects from the production version having a much more voluminous exhaust and single spar downtube frame and was also fitted with an oil-cooler. Lejeune came home in 3rd position on this machine losing 82 marks. The machine was registered in the UK by Honda Britain. Photo copyright: Donald Young, Stonehaven, Scotland UK.